An antitrust class action over pay for temporary nurses in Arizona has settled for $22 million.
The case, brought by co-lead class counsel David Balto, a Washington D.C.-based solo practitioner, and David Sorenson of Berger & Montague in Philadelphia, stemmed from a 2007 complaint by the Justice Department.
The government alleged that Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association and its subsidiary the AzHHA Service Corp. violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act by setting uniform billing rates for temporary nurses – in effect forming a buyer’s cartel to set monopoly prices.
As a result, prevailing wages for temporary nurses were decreased below competitive levels, the government alleged.
That case settled in less than four months, and the defendants agreed to stop setting billing rates – but no monetary penalties were assessed, nor did the government go after the individual hospitals that used the nurses.
The follow-on class action, brought in Arizona federal court, named dozens of hospitals as co-defendants.
The final settlement, approved on Friday, includes more than $5 million in attorneys fees. In addition to lead counsel Balto and Sorenson, Mark Samson of Keller Rohrback and Allen Grunes of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schrek were named class counsel.
Judge Susan Bolton described the case as “highly complex, expensive and time consuming” and wrote that the settlement was “fair, adequate and reasonable in all aspects.”
The settlement “demonstrates the importance of the antitrust laws in all healthcare markets,” Balto said. “Antitrust not only protects consumers in assuring competitive prices, but it also prevents anticompetitive practices that harm workers or other service providers such as nurses. The settlement protects nurses in being able to secure fair and competitive compensation."